Brushite-forming calcium phosphate cements are of great interest as bone replacement materials because they are resorbable in physiological conditions. Cell-attached culture beads formed from this material could be of great use for cell therapy. Despite a significant amount of work on optimizing the physicochemical properties of these materials, there are very few studies that have evaluated the capacity of the materials to facilitate cell adhesion. In this study, we have formed resorbable calcium phosphate (brushite) culture beads and for the first time we showed that cell attachment to the surface of the brushite cement (BC) could be inhibited by the presence of an intermediate dicalcium phosphate–citrate complex, formed in the cement as a result of using citric acid, a retardant and viscosity modifier used in many cement formulations. The BC beads formed from the mixture of β-TCP/orthophosphoric acid using citric acid did not allow cell attachment without further treatment. Ageing of BC beads in serum-free Dulbecco's Modified Eagle's Medium (DMEM) solution at 37°C for 1 week greatly enhanced the cell adhesion capacity of the material. Scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction (XRD), and confocal Raman microspectrometry indicated the increased capacity for cell adhesion was due to the changes in phase composition of BC. XRD patterns collected before and after ageing in aqueous solution and a high initial mass loss, suggest the formation of a dicalcium phosphate–citrate complex within the matrix. Since compacts formed from brushite powder supported cell attachment, it was hypothesized that the dicalcium phosphate–citrate complex prevented attachment to the cement surface. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2013; 110: 1487–1494. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.